The End of Education (A Boy with a Problem)

Jean Rath

2008-12

In the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", the main character, Roy Neary, responds to his son's request for math help by saying, "I don't have to do your problems for you. You do your problems for you. That's why I graduated, so I don't have to do problems." The idea that there is actually an end to education is appalling; but fortunately for us, Roy is about to be whisked away by aliens, possibly never to trouble the earth again. The problem for both Roy and his son is that they have been lulled into a state of mind that is familiar to all of us: education is a "thing" that one starts, and then does, and then finishes. And then, presumably, life begins. In Roy's case, this involves a lot of model trains.

In my own limited circle of friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances, I've heard a number of stories of teenage boys who are having trouble at school because they find it irrelevant. It's not a new story. My husband reports that his part-time job at McDonald's during High School was more fulfilling than the parade of schoolbooks and assignments. The job eventually took over. He finally finished his Grade 13 by correspondence while servicing radar with the Canadian military in Goose Bay, Labrador.

For lack of anything better, these visionless youth are encouraged to stick with the system, knowing that it will eventually "end". They are promised better things if they will only get their high school diploma. That dangled carrot is rather shallow, and can be demoralizing. Last September, Alberta's minister of education told Calgary business people to stop hiring high school drop-outs, saying "…this may look like a good short-term opportunity but in the long term you need your education." Those who are accustomed to the system are not comfortable with the concept of youth who are motivated by money instead of education; and yet all the resources are in place for a wisely-guided young man to get any education he needs, and still use his muscles to make big bucks on the oil rigs. The homeschool, especially, can be a place where, using available resources and some imagination, a teenager's education can be something that he is enthusiastic about.

The United Kingdom has a system of paid apprenticeships by which young people can learn a wide variety of professions on the job; from the arts to engineering. Apprenticeships in the UK can begin as young as seventeen. In Ontario, teens that leave school before eighteen are not allowed to have a driver's license. In Canada, we're not yet quite comfortable with altering the system to make it more relevant to youth; we would rather that our youth fit into the system. Things are changing. In Ontario, there are some possibilities of high school-level apprenticeships; and some high schools are experimenting with something called "specialist high skills majors". But change is slow. A homeschool can accomplish that change quickly for its individual students; and for each homeschool, that individual student is the most important one on the planet.

If there is no enthusiasm for the "thing" that is education, how can there then be enthusiasm in the "life" that follows; or worse, how can there be enthusiasm for more education? If Roy Neary had managed to remain on earth past the 70's then his aversion to "problems" may not have allowed him to embrace the technological changes that were about to revolutionize his trade (electrician). The homeschool has the luxury of seeing life and education happen at the same time; presumably with relevance to the one enjoying it. Where we find education to be relevant to our lives and our future vision, it is naturally something that continues without coming to an end.


©Copyright 2008, Christopher & Jean Rath
Telephone: 613-824-4584
Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
Last updated: 2009/07/22 @ 20:41:41 ( )